Friday, July 19, 2013

Lost Ladies of Mystery Fiction: Annie Haynes, Who Killed Charmian Karslake? (1929)

We hear a lot about the Crime Queens, of course, but what about the lost ladies of Golden Age crime fiction?

Women like Annie Haynes, for example.  Haynes wrote a dozen crime novels before her death in 1929, but practically nothing is known about her within the classic mystery community, despite the fact that her books were well-regarded in England, where they were published by The Bodley Head, the same company that published the earlier Agatha Christie novels (though Christie, exasperated with her penurious contract with The Bodley Head, moved on to the Collins Crime Club; The Bodley Head thus lost out on a certain novel called The Murder of Roger Ackroyd).

Only three Haynes mysteries were published in the United States, however (two by Dodd, Mead) and she was soon forgotten after the posthumous publication of her twelfth mystery, The Crystal Beads Murder (completed by another woman mystery writer).

Ada Heather-Bigg, a prominent Victorian-era feminist and advocate of women entering the labor force, wrote the foreword to Haynes' last novel, in which she revealed that during the last fifteen years of her life Haynes suffered from a painful, debilitating illness that kept her confined to her house.  It was during this time that she wrote her dozen crime novels.

Before her illness, Haynes had been a very active woman, intensely interested in "crime and criminal psychology."  Ada Heather-Bigg wrote that Haynes had cycled "miles to visit the scene of the Luard Murder, [pushed] her way into the cellar of 39 Hilldrop Crescent, where the remains of Belle Elmore were discovered, and [attended] the Crippen trial.

These events described by Heather-Bigg took place in 1908-10, a few years before Haynes was afflicted with her grave illness, probably around 1914.  The Luard Murder refers to the death of Caroline Mary Luard, a general's wife who was found shot dead in a summerhouse in the village of Ightham, Kent.  It's a situation out of a classic British mystery novel if ever there were one, and crime novelist Minette Walters recently published a short book about it, A Dreadful Murder. The Crippen murder case is, of course, concerned one of the most infamous of British murders.

Although not charged with the crime
General Luard was subjected to poison pen letters
accusing him of it and he committed suicide
by throwing himself in front of a train.

How does Annie Haynes' penultimate mystery novel (also published posthumously), Who Killed Charmian Karslake? (1929), compare with these notorious British murders and the celebrated tales of Agatha Christie, her colleague at The Bodley Head? Check in this weekend and see.

Meanwhile, here's a list of the Annie Haynes crime novels:

The Bungalow Mystery (1923)
The Abbey Court Murder (1923)
The Secret of Greylands (1924)
The Blue Diamond (1925)
The Witness on the Roof (1925)
The House in Charlton Crescent (1926)
The Crow's Inn Tragedy (1927)
The Master of the Priory (1927)
The Man with the Dark Beard (1928)
The Crime at Tattenham Corner (1929)
Who Killed Charmian Karslake? (1929)
The Crystal Beads Murder (1930, completed by another hand)

Note: This blog entry is dedicated to Carl Woodings, possibly the only other living person in the world besides Allen Hubin, Bill Pronzini, and your own Passing Tramp who actually has read a book by Annie Haynes!  In fact I think we can say that Carl probably has read more Annie Haynes novels than anyone else in the world.--TPT


  1. I've read and actually own a First Edition of The Bungalow Mystery.I remember enjoying it greatly, oddly enough I don't think I've ever seen any of her other books.

  2. All her books except the bungalow mystery, the secret of greylands, the blue diamond, the witness on the roof, and the master of the priory are available as kindle books.

  3. The rest of the books by Ms. Haynes will be released on 7 March 2016.

  4. The rest of the books by Ms. Haynes will be released on 7 March 2016.

  5. In 2017 in Italy has been published IL DELITTO DI ABBEY COURT (The Abbey Court Murder).

  6. also check 7 of her works are available there. I find the volunteers at Mobileread have the best (cleanest, best proofread, etc.) versions of public domain ebooks. (I am usually disappointed by the commercial books I pay lots of $$ for, only to find many, many errors, typos, etc. The rule not the exception sad to say).

  7. I recently read The Abbey Court Murder, and have to admit that I wasn't overly impressed with it. It was a little too heavy on the Victorian melodrama and light on the detective work. The reveal by the detective at the end was pretty good, though, and somewhat surprising, so I was still satisfied when I had finished it.

    But I can't say it was good enough for me to pursue the other books, unless someone recommends otherwise.